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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    JOHN YANG: Now to our latest ScienceScope episode.

    A third of the planet’s coral reef ecosystems are at risk of being damaged by warming sea temperatures and the subsequent coral bleaching, but can these creatures adapt and survive?

    NewsHour’s science producer Nsikan Akpan and producer Matt Ehrichs take us on a voyage deep into the Atlantic Ocean, looking for answers.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: I’m in a plastic pod in the middle of the ocean off Bermuda’s southeast coast. This thing is smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle.

    As six-foot swells toss our tiny submersible, I think, this was a terrible idea. Then, suddenly, the pod tips forward. The descent begins. The rocking slowly stops, as the ocean swallows us.

    All that’s left is peace. No more e-mails. No claustrophobia. Just the whole ocean spread in front of us and a scientific quest.

    ScienceScope visited Bermuda to travel hundreds of feet underwater with the privately funded Nekton mission and to see the threats harming more than a third of the planet’s coral reefs, because some coral may adapt by going deeper.

    ALEX ROGERS, Chief Scientist, Nekton: Nekton is a brand-new project aimed at exploring and documenting life in the deep ocean, but also showing the public what lives in the deep ocean, and what it does for humankind, and also what impacts humans are having on the deep sea.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: The project plans to measure biodiversity and ocean chemistry at three sites in the Atlantic. The team uses a variety of tools, among them, two Triton submersibles called Nemo and Nomad. They’re the same type used by filmmaker and ocean explorer James Cameron.

    Capable of diving 1,000 feet, these minisubs are equipped with the latest filming and scientific equipment. They will document the vast, uncharted void that is the deep sea.

    ALEX ROGERS: Well, at present, about .0001 percent of the deep sea has been explored by scientists like myself. Our goal is to set up a standard protocol for investigating the deep sea.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Over the course of four hours, we glide across huge portions of the seafloor. This is called a transect. The scientists videotape and ultimately identify as many species as possible.

    ALEX ROGERS: On the limestone, we have coral garden habitat. The bright white corals are hydrocorals. The yellow corals are gorgonians, and the wire corals are black corals.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Oodles of fish dart back and forth in this abyss, while moray eels stick out their neon green necks from the sea bed. But the team can identify species even when they’re not physically around using environmental DNA.

    ALEX ROGERS: So, you can imagine if you put your hand in a big glass of water, and a few cells fall off your hand with your DNA on them, then we would be able to take that water and sequence it, and find out that you have been there, and you have put your hand in the water.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: The scientists collect water samples to do the same with ocean critters, which shed cells with DNA in many forms, scales, shells.

    ALEX ROGERS: Poop as well.


    ALEX ROGERS: Poop is a great source of DNA.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Closer to the surface, Nekton conducts similar surveys by relying on research divers from Project Baseline, a global citizen science initiative.

    These divers film the biodiversity, but also collect physical specimens for researchers like Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley. She studies how corals migrate from shallow water into the deeper, darker mesophotic zone.

    Located 131 to more than 500 feet underwater, this deeper region may one day serve as a refuge for corals affected by bleaching and other threats.

    GRETCHEN GOODBODY-GRINGLEY, Reef Ecologist: Many of the anthropogenic or human-caused threats that are impacting shallow water coral reefs, such as increases in seawater temperature, increases in pollution, sedimentation and runoff from the land, these all impact the shallow water reef more than they are impacting the mesophotic reef.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Warming waters cause coral bleaching, as seen here with mushroom coral. The coral expels its colorful, symbiotic algae, which have become toxic due to the heat. This coral also expands to 340 percent of its size.

    If this event occurs too frequently, the coral won’t only bleach. It’ll die. All corals start as little larvae that get swept around by currents before attaching in a single spot. So, Gringley, Rogers and the Nekton team use these underwater surveys and environmental DNA to see which shallow water corals can also live in the mesophotic zone and maybe one day use this deeper ocean as a hideout.

    GRETCHEN GOODBODY-GRINGLEY: So if you have high levels of genetic diversity across geographic range or across depth range, this would be indicative of mixing, and so the larvae are in fact migrating between zones.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: So, from these teeny-tiny samples, her team can unlock how generations of corals have migrated. The results will clear up which coral species can migrate and which can’t.

    Conservation scientists in the future can use this information to best protect these critical critters, maybe by preserving them in aquariums or physically transplanting them from shallow water to the mesophotic zone.

    OLIVER STEEDS, Mission Director, Nekton: The deep ocean is the most critical frontier for humanity, and is also the least known. The deep ocean is our beating heart, and if you didn’t know how healthy your heart was, wouldn’t you want to know?

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Until next time, I’m Nsikan Akpan, and this is ScienceScope from the PBS NewsHour.

    JOHN YANG: Online, you can watch additional episodes of ScienceScope and get five important news stories you might have missed last week.

    All that and more is on our Web site, pbs.org/newshour.

    The post Diving into the deep ocean to find hope for threatened coral reefs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady holds the Vince Lombardi trophy as interviewer Terry Bradshaw approaches after his team defeated the Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas, U.S., February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif   - RTX2ZRGG

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    JOHN YANG: More than 110 million viewers tuned into the Super Bowl last night. And a good percentage of them may have started tuning out because the game looked like a blowout. But those who looked away missed an amazing comeback.

    Jeffrey Brown has our story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Up 21-0 with the first half winding down, Atlanta had a championship in its sights. There’d never been a Super Bowl comeback of more than 10 points.

    The Falcons stretched their lead to 25, all but over, before the improbable and impossible, as the Tom Brady-led Patriots began chipping away. They’d drawn within eight points, when wide receiver Julian Edelman made an eye-popping grab.

    Soon after, New England tied it. That forced the first overtime in Super Bowl history, and the Patriots quickly marched to victory.

    ANNOUNCER: He’s in! The Patriots win the Super Bowl!

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s the fifth Super Bowl ring for coach Bill Belichick and Brady, who was voted most valuable player of the game again.

    TOM BRADY, New England Patriots: New England, we love you. You have been with us all year. We’re bringing this sucker home!

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was a bit of revenge for Brady, who had been suspended four games this season over a scandal involving under-inflated footballs in a playoff game two years ago.

    Well, I stayed with it to the end. And I’m glad I did.

    And so did Mike Pesca. He’s a sports reporter and the host of Slate’s daily news and discussion podcast “The Gist.”

    Mike, I watched Patriots players afterwards, and they were saying, we never thought it was over, we always thought we had a chance.

    I’m not sure I believed them. Did you?

    MIKE PESCA, Slate: Yes. Athletes, that’s the mind-set. And the great ones have it.

    And the great ones who play alongside Tom Brady with his now five Super Bowl rings know that that has to be the attitude. And I will have to say that, going in, it was the truth that, if Tom Brady had a chance to throw without being sacked, without being hit, without being hurt, we knew that he could a devastating against this Falcons defense.

    He didn’t get that chance through almost three whole quarters. Then, when he did get the chance, the question is, well, can he slice up this team in such a concentrated time period? And that was the amazing thing.

    It’s not that Tom Brady orchestrated fourth-quarter comebacks. He has done that six times. It’s that he orchestrated this 25-point comeback with — really just starting with only minutes to go in the third quarter. Amazing.


    I imagine the background to all this, the two years of Deflategate and Brady suspended for four games this season.

    I want to play a little clip of owner, Patriots owner Robert Kraft after the game.

    ROBERT KRAFT, Owner, New England Patriots: A lot has transpired during the last two years. And I don’t think that needs any explanation.

    This is unequivocally the sweetest.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Brady and coach Belichick, they said, oh, this stuff wasn’t on our mind.

    Clearly on the mind of Robert Kraft and others.

    MIKE PESCA: Well, it was on Belichick and Brady’s mind, you could tell. It was on the minds of all the fans.

    And I do think that that Goodell ruling was him being a little bit imperious, imperial, and making a very harsh ruling. Tom Brady was suspended for a quarter of this season, giving him an extra incentive, a guy who doesn’t need that.

    Now, the background with Kraft and Goodell is, Kraft is a big Goodell ally. And before this got in the way and soured their relationship, Goodell could always count on Kraft to, among things, approve gigantic salaries for Goodell.

    So, I don’t know if this makes the Patriots an underdog, especially given the politics of the moment, but to their fans, this made this more than just yet another victory and the most amazing comeback during NFL history. It made it sweet revenge.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so when you speak, when you talk of most of all time, of course, the inevitable talk is greatest of all time player with Brady, coach with Belichick, and dynasty with the Patriots.

    Where do you come down?

    MIKE PESCA: I have never seen Otto Graham play a full game. And most of the people weighing in haven’t either. And he has an impeccable record.

    Then you have to factor in that the rules and the offenses of 2016-2017 are light years ahead of what guys like Roger Staubach did.

    But no one could — how could you say he’s anything less than tied? And the Brady-Belichick combination — the NFL chews up coaches. And I think Bill Belichick is one of the most creative minds in any endeavor, finding so many different ways to win and outthink the opponent.

    For whatever you think of his countenance and not smiling, and perhaps wearing ill-fitting hooded sweatshirts, that guy is a brilliant thinker, and he brings creativity to the game, which I, as a fan, appreciate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mike, just in our last minute, I want to ask you about Atlanta.

    What an exciting and young team they were for about three quarters, and then what a devastating loss for the team and the city that has hungered for such things.

    MIKE PESCA: Yes.

    So, two points. They were on the field for 93 plays. No defense could possibly stick with another team. We did think that they had a big enough buffer.

    So, the combination of the number of plays the Patriots had, which just wore down the defense, and the fact that, let’s be honest, Atlanta made some terrible mistakes, including taking some key sacks and not kicking a field goal which would have made it a three-score game with four minutes and change left.

    They will be ruing this for a long time. And their one Braves championship back in the ’90s, I don’t think will be enough to sustain this city for much longer.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mike Pesca, thank you very much.

    MIKE PESCA: You’re welcome.

    The post With Super Bowl win, New England Patriots score an amazing comeback appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    File photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has filed a brief with a federal appeals court in support of President Donald Trump’s travel and refugee ban.

    The document was filed Monday with the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The filing says the Trump administration executive order that bans travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations is a “lawful exercise” of presidential authority. A federal judge in Washington state put the order on hold Friday.

    Federal government lawyers say the ruling by the judge, James Robart, was overly broad and should be overruled.

    It was not immediately clear when the 9th Circuit might rule, but the legal fight may ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Video by PBS NewsHour Weekend

    One federal appeals court has weighed in on the Trump administration’s immigration ban, and should another appeals court in another region of the country offer a competing view, it could send the debate to the U.S. Supreme Court. To discuss the legal ramifications of the immigration ban, University of Texas Law School Professor Steve Vladeck joins Hari Sreenivasan.

    Trump: Allow those into U.S. who ‘want to love our country’

    The post Justice Department files brief supporting travel ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JOHN YANG: In that interview with FOX News that aired yesterday, President Trump said it could take longer to repeal and replace Obamacare than he’d indicated previously.

    Last month, the president said he’d offer a replacement plan as soon as his health and human services secretary is confirmed. But Mr. Trump told Bill O’Reilly that it could take until next year.

    BILL O’REILLY, Host, “The O’Reilly Factor”: Can Americans in 2017 expect a new health care plan rolled out by the Trump administration, this year?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In the process, and maybe it will take until some time into next year, but we are certainly going to be in the process. Very complicated. Obamacare is a disaster.

    You have to remember, Obamacare doesn’t work, so we are putting in a wonderful plan. It’s statutorily takes a while to get. We’re going to be putting it in fairly soon. I think that, yes, I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but we should have something within the year and the following year.

    JOHN YANG: Most of the focus on the Affordable Care Act has been on coverage.

    But among the goals of the 2,000-page law is to develop something called Accountable Care Organizations. They offer doctors and hospitals a deal. In exchange for better and more efficient care for Medicare recipients, the providers get a share of the savings.

    Special correspondent Jackie Judd reports.

    JACKIE JUDD: Creating health care for the future sometimes means going back to the past.

    Nurse practitioner Dana Sheer makes old-fashioned house calls to high-risk patients, like Howard VanVleck, who suffers from a neurological disorder. On this day, a cough alarmed his wife.

    LISA VANVLECK, Wife of Howard: When I called the doctor’s office about it, they said, can you bring him in? And I said, really not.

    JACKIE JUDD: This visit was low-tech and quick, but, if needed, VanVleck can get an in-home ultrasound, an EKG, even a chest X-ray.

    DANA SHEER, Nurse Practitioner: Our program is really aimed at trying to figure out ways that we can provide really good, cost-effective, quality care at a patient’s home, at a place where they can actually thrive and do better.

    JACKIE JUDD: How many times during that year would he have been in the hospital if you or a colleague hadn’t visited?

    DANA SHEER: Likely every time.

    JACKIE JUDD: Sheer is part of the Accountable Care Organization, or ACO, run by Partners HealthCare, which collaborates with several Massachusetts hospitals.

    At Mass General, Jason Wasfy does the once unthinkable for a cardiologist. He routinely e-mails or video-chats with patients.

    DR. JASON WASFY, Massachusetts General Hospital: There are cases, high cholesterol, for example, where I don’t Actually need to actually physically examine the patient.

    JACKIE JUDD: Medicare is not going to reimburse Partners for the home visit or the teleconference. They are not covered services, so why invest in these programs?

    Because, if they lead to lower costs to the government and better care, Partners may earn end-of-year bonuses from Medicare.

    DR. TIMOTHY FERRIS, Manager, Partners HealthCare: How are you doing today?

    JACKIE JUDD: Primary care physician Tim Ferris manages the ACO.

    DR. TIMOTHY FERRIS: It allows us essentially to customize the delivery of services to specific needs and not base how we are delivering that service on exactly what is paid for in a fee-for-service system.

    JACKIE JUDD: An early concern about ACOs was, would doctors skimp on care in order to save money? So far, there is no evidence of that happening.

    WOMAN: This is triggering her anxiety again.

    JACKIE JUDD: At Partners, it has created 26 new programs since launching its organization, everything from integrating mental health services with primary care to offering diabetes classes.

    MAN: I think we will start with the data on the front page here.

    JACKIE JUDD: Teams of primary care physicians, nurses and psychologists meet weekly to coordinate care.

    WOMAN: We have to do better. I mean, 81 percent is good, but…

    MAN: It’s not good enough.

    WOMAN: It’s not good enough.

    JACKIE JUDD: Without much fanfare, Accountable Care Organizations have become embedded in the health care system. While the government jump-started the movement, private insurers are also involved. In 2012, eight million Americans got their care through an ACO. Today, that number is 31 million. That’s 10 percent of the population.

    The new administration has not weighed in on the fate of government-run ACOs. Many experts believe they will remain in place.

    DR. TIMOTHY FERRIS: We are committed to this journey, regardless of what happens, that we have built sufficient confidence that this is the right thing to do for our patients.

    JACKIE JUDD: Partners is a major player among the nearly 900 ACOs across the country. And its size helps cushion the costs of ramping up and maintaining its organization.

    Dr. Peter Slavin runs Mass General.

    DR. PETER SLAVIN, President, Massachusetts General Hospital: Where we stand to gain financially is, we have now freed up capacity within the hospital that the ACO patients used to utilize, and we can use that capacity to serve patients from other networks, from other parts of the country, from other parts of the world.

    JACKIE JUDD: Patients who would be paying more for your services?

    DR. PETER SLAVIN: Patients who would be paying more for our services. That is correct.

    JACKIE JUDD: So, what is Partners’ track record? Mixed. Most quality measures have improved to varying degrees. Hospital admissions dropped last year by 6 percent over the previous year. The way care is delivered has been transformed.

    Cost, though, is stuck in neutral. Partners earned bonuses two times by spending less than expected. But the other two years, it didn’t qualify for bonuses and it had to absorb the expenses of those unreimbursed services.

    Partners’ record mirrors the national trend in ACOs. The result is Medicare has saved only a modest amount of money.

    Ashish Jha, a doctor and health policy researcher at Harvard, was an early supporter of ACOs and he still is. But he also is questioning whether early expectations for dramatic cost savings and quality improvements will ever be met.

    ASHISH JHA, Harvard School of Public Health: I guess I thought by sort of year four, year five, we would have started seeing real gains, kind of nationally.

    And, of course, you would expect some organizations to fail, you would expect some organizations not to do a good job. But I — maybe I was just being unrealistic. But when I heard the ACO experts talking five years ago, I heard points of, within a couple of years, we’re going to start seeing real movement. And that hasn’t happened.

    JACKIE JUDD: Ferris counters that altering a complex culture, making big up-front investments and reorganizing care take time and certainly more than four or five years.

    DR. TIMOTHY FERRIS: You have to commit to the long haul here. And we thought, initially, that we would be able to make big changes quickly. And it’s quite clear that that’s not true.

    JACKIE JUDD: According to government analyses, primary care ACOs are showing more success than the large health systems.

    Coastal Medical in Rhode Island has 85 primary care doctors. Since 2012, it has saved Medicare $24 million and earned almost half back in bonuses.

    CEO, Dr. Alan Kurose, says not being linked to a hospital makes a difference.

    DR. ALAN KUROSE, CEO, Coastal Medical: There will be less demand for inpatient hospital services if we really do coordinated care, patient-centered care well. And so that hits the bottom line of a hospital.

    MAN: We’re going to start by just checking your oxygen level.

    JACKIE JUDD: Coastal medical keeps clinics open every day of the year, and some have late hours.

    WOMAN: How is everything going?

    JACKIE JUDD: The practice hired more support staff, including pharmacists, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners, because of the time given to the sickest patients.

    ABBE SHUSTER, Nurse Care Manager: We have one patient, I call him every morning just to make sure he is up for the day. I check on how his pain level, if he’s taken any of his pain meds yet, has something in his stomach for the day. And we have found, by doing that, that he’s been able to stay in his home and continue to get his at-home nursing services.

    JACKIE JUDD: Ironically, many patients are not even aware of being part of an Accountable Care Organization. They just know different services are available.

    Brenda Fougera has chronic medical problems.

    BRENDA FOUGERA, Patient: If I need a same-day appointment because I have a cold, because, with me, with my lungs, they aren’t good. And Dr. Hubbard would start me on certain things where I didn’t end up in the hospital or end up with pneumonia.

    JACKIE JUDD: Even with its early success, Coastal Medical and other ACOs are still searching for that elusive formula of better care at a lower cost.

    DR. ALAN KUROSE: Our experience is that there are a lot of smaller buckets of costs, and you have to work on a lot of them. And you don’t need one clinical initiative. You need a portfolio of clinical initiatives.

    JACKIE JUDD: Whatever the fate of Obamacare, this experiment likely will be given several more years to prove whether personalized, coordinated care really does in the end save large amounts of money.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Jackie Judd in Boston.

    The post Does this Obamacare experiment offer significant savings? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JOHN YANG: But first: a look at what we know about the inner workings of the Trump White House and the at times chaotic rollout of executive actions.

    We have our Politics Monday team of Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report. And, tonight, we’re also joined by Glenn Thrush, the White House correspondent for The New York Times.

    Glenn, let me start with you.

    You have a not only — because you’re the only one of us, I think, who has been immortalized on “Saturday Night Live.”


    JOHN YANG: So, you had a story this morning in The New York Times that had all sorts of interesting details on the inner workings of the Trump White House.

    What struck you as you were reporting that story?

    GLENN THRUSH, The New York Times: Well, what struck me is — and I will use this metaphor — is that the Trump White House, this very small crew of ideologues and operatives who are loyal to the president, have begun carpet-bombing the world with these executive orders, insults and taunts hurled at leaders around the world, while they are still essentially building the plane.

    The point is, there is a tremendous amount of audacity and a lot of boldness coming out of Stephen Bannon, who is the president’s chief strategist, who is the brain behind what is essentially 250 executive orders that have been at least looked at, dozens and dozens which are likely to be unveiled over the next 12 months, while the president is figuring out how to operate the basic levers of power in Washington, D.C.

    And my partner and I, Maggie Haberman, point out just how fundamental that is. When we say operate the levers of power, we mean that literally. There are staffers in the West Wing of the White House who don’t know how to operate the lights yet.

    JOHN YANG: Tam, you have done a little reporting on this in terms of the historical record.

    How unusual is this for an outsider from Washington coming into the White House like this to have this sort of — it’s been described as chaos and disorganization?

    TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Well, you don’t have to go back too far, because there was an outsider who came in, in 1993 from Arkansas, brought a bunch of people from Arkansas in, and thought that they didn’t need the people who were experts and who had done it all before.

    And it was pretty problematic for about the first year-and-a-half of the Clinton administration, where they had a lot of trouble getting their nominees through and similar hiccups. So, there is a model for it.

    And about a year-and-a-half into the Clinton administration, there was sort of a staff shakeup and they brought in somebody with some more Washington experience, Leon Panetta, to be chief of staff.

    JOHN YANG: Amy, could this be by design?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, listen, we saw that Donald Trump as a candidate, Donald Trump as a businessman, his management style is chaos and conflict, and it won him the nomination, and it won him the White House.

    He’s been successful in his business dealings with this. So why not use it at the White House, right?

    The question is, how long can you keep going like this? I know a lot of folks come to Washington saying, I’m just going to run Washington like you run a business.

    Well, Washington isn’t a business. Running the government isn’t like running a business. It is big and complicated. And for the first time in his life, he’s got a whole bunch of people that not only answer to him, but who he has to answer to, namely the two other branches of government that he’s learning right now.

    So, will this continue to happen? Maybe. I talked to some folks who say, you’re not likely to see him change. But, at the same time, you saw during the course of the campaign he would make course corrections. Remember, he went through two campaign managers after — and then finally landing on Kellyanne Conway.

    So, he could make some changes when he sees that the outside pressure is coming, whether it’s in stories like the one that Glenn had this morning or other frustrations that he’s feeling personally.

    JOHN YANG: Glenn, you talked about them trying to figure out how to turn the lights on, but also in some of the offices they’re trying to turn the lights on, there aren’t — there is no one in there anyway, right?

    GLENN THRUSH: Well, I think, you know, they put forth figures. The chief of staff, Reince Priebus, says that they’re meeting their staffing expectations comparable to what President Obama had eight years ago.

    The truth of the matter is, though — and I should say we spoke with 40 to 50 people for this story over the course of the last two weeks. The problem isn’t getting names on a list. The problem is that the president of the United States only likes six to eight people in his orbit at any given time.

    The most telling image — and this is a president, remember, who’s very visual — is around the Resolute desk in the office, you have four hardback chairs arranged. That’s about the number of people who have influence on him on any given day.

    And what a lot of people said to us was, we have tried to bring in new people, but we’re afraid, if they underperform or if the president doesn’t like him, he will take it out on us, and we will lose our seats in one of those four chairs.

    So, this management style that worked very well in Trump Tower, the question is, as Tamara put it, is, will he be able to adjust his management style which worked in business and branding to a much more complicated job, probably the most complicated job on the planet?

    JOHN YANG: Glenn, we should point out that the president, continuing his love affair with your publication, tweeted out this morning.

    He said: “The failing New York Times writes total fiction concerning me. They have gotten it wrong for two years and now are making up stories and sources.”

    On Air Force One on the way back from Florida, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, called it literally the epitome of fake news.

    I don’t know if you want to respond to that or not, but that’s what they’re saying about your reporting.

    GLENN THRUSH: Our reporting, I think, is substantial, and solid and well-sourced. And every detail in — major detail in that story was run by officials in the Trump White House before it was published.

    JOHN YANG: Tamara, you have also looked at the record on getting Cabinet nominees in place and also the sub-Cabinet officials.

    TAMARA KEITH: Right.

    And there are about 700 important positions that require Senate confirmation. At this point, the Trump administration has named about 35 people of those 700. Now, many administrations take a while to name some of the sub-Cabinet, but, at this point — in part, this is because of the Senate and Senate Democrats, and, in part, it’s because of the types of nominees that were picked and because of the fact that they weren’t pre-vetted by the Office of Government Ethics before their names were announced.

    But in terms of the Cabinet, Donald Trump has the fewest Cabinet members confirmed of anyone going back to World War II. There’s no precedent for a president this far in having so few people.

    As one person I talked to said, you’re going into the Super Bowl and you don’t have the team on the field.

    AMY WALTER: And, remember, too, nobody thought he was going to win, OK, including people in the campaign.

    I was talking to — I’m sure all of us were talking to people within Clinton orbit who were coming into town looking for houses from around the country, thinking, well, I’m certainly going to get a job in the administration, I have been promised a job in the administration.

    That was all set to go. So, I think that’s a big piece of it. And as Tamara pointed out, too, he’s got people, at least at the Cabinet level, lined up. Getting them through the process, which we’re now having another night where we’re going to have an all-nighter on the Senate with Democrats trying desperately to block Betsy DeVos, hoping for one more Republican vote to sink her nomination.

    TAMARA KEITH: And there are three Cabinet-level nominees who have not completed their ethics process still.

    So, although the Trump administration complains, and somewhat rightfully, that they don’t have enough people on hand, even though they have named them, there are three people who haven’t completed that basic process that, in the past, would have been done before they were even named.

    JOHN YANG: And over the weekend, we had a secretary of the Army designee draw because of troubles with untangling from ethics issues.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    TAMARA KEITH: Right.

    JOHN YANG: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Glenn Thrush, thanks for being with us.

    TAMARA KEITH: Of course.

    AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

    GLENN THRUSH: Great to be here.

    The post Is the Trump administration struggling to get up to speed? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Chicago area immigration attorney Diana Mendoza Pacheco offers her assistance to arriving passengers at O'Hare airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski - RTX2YWOD

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    JOHN YANG: Now to the constitutional showdown over President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

    For the first of two looks at what’s at stake, we are joined first by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson from Seattle. It was his suit that led to this weekend’s temporary shutdown of the ban.

    Attorney General Ferguson, thanks for joining us.

    BOB FERGUSON, Washington State Attorney General: Thanks for having me on.

    JOHN YANG: If you — if the court lifts this ban, lifts the temporary restraining order, will you appeal to the Supreme Court?

    BOB FERGUSON: Well, to be crystal clear, I will use every tool I have to make sure that this unconstitutional executive order doesn’t stand.

    That said, we’re confident the Ninth Circuit will affirm what Judge Robart, who was appointed, of course, by President George W. Bush, will affirm his decision to grant that TRO.

    JOHN YANG: I assume you’re anticipating if he does keep it in place that the Justice Department will take it to the Supreme Court. What’s your sense of how your chances would fare on the current court?

    BOB FERGUSON: Well, I feel very confident.

    As I mentioned, Judge Robart is a very serious, well-respected judge appointed by President George W. Bush. And he took the significant step of granting a temporary restraining order. There’s a high hurdle for a lawyer to meet in a courtroom to get a judge to grant a TRO, a temporary restraining order.

    So, given that and the fact the Ninth Circuit declined to give an emergency stay a couple nights ago, we feel confident with our case not just at the Ninth Circuit, but frankly all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, if that’s what it comes down to.

    JOHN YANG: And all this is right now is just over this temporary restraining order. You would still have to go back for a trial on the merits before Judge Robart in Seattle, is that right?

    BOB FERGUSON: That’s correct, although we feel confident there, because in order to grant the temporary restraining order, one of the criteria that the judge must conclude is that the state has a high likelihood of prevailing on the merits.

    He’s already reached that conclusion that we’re likely to prevail once we get to the merits before the judge.

    JOHN YANG: Now, the Constitution gives the president authority to deal with immigration, to conduct foreign affairs and address immigration.

    Congress in the immigration law gives the president the power to restrict or suspend the entry of people he may deem appropriate. Why do you argue that this is unconstitutional?

    BOB FERGUSON: Well, it’s pretty straightforward.

    Yes, the president has broad authority. We don’t question that. But what the federal government is literally arguing, and that your viewers should be aware of, is they’re arguing that it’s unfettered, that the court cannot look behind any motivation for that order or whether or not it’s constitutional.

    And that has never been the law and simply cannot be the law. And we are a nation of laws. And nobody can ignore our Constitution. No one’s above the law. And that includes the president of the United States.

    JOHN YANG: If this executive order had just called for the extreme vetting, as President Trump calls it, and not specified countries, not given preference to Christians — well, it gives preference to religious minorities in these countries, which means Christians and other religions — would that have removed the constitutional objections, in your view?

    BOB FERGUSON: Well, I’m often asked about different permutations that might solve the significant problem the federal government has.

    What I can say is, there is pretty significant vetting going on. I just returned from Sea-Tac Airport here in Washington State, where I met individuals who had been denied entry to the country as a result of the president’s executive order, but are now back in.

    And in one case, he had gone through a through a two-year process to get his visa. He’s now joining his wife, who’s a citizen of this state, and his cousin, who is a graduate of Washington State University and works at Boeing. These are folks who would be great additions to our life in Washington State. And that’s happening all across the country as well.

    JOHN YANG: So, we’re learning that the judge has asked — the appeals court asked for oral arguments today.

    Give us a preview. What are you going to be saying before this three-judge panel?

    BOB FERGUSON: So, you have news that I just am hearing for the first time.

    So, we’re not surprised if there’s oral argument. We anticipated that would be the case for an issue of this magnitude. And we will make the same case, frankly, that we made before Judge Robart, that there can be no unfettered discretion for a president, that you have to look behind what he’s doing here, and that we find in this case that it violates various constitutional provisions, and also violates specific statutory provisions as well.

    So we’re confident we will prevail.

    JOHN YANG: The president has been tweeting about this. He said that this stay, this temporary restraining order, puts our country in such peril, he says. If something happens, blame him, meaning the judge, Judge Robart, and the court system.

    How do you respond to that?

    BOB FERGUSON: Well, look, a couple things.

    Number one, as a lawyer, his comments about the judge being a so-called judge, for example, or statements like that are deeply concerning to anyone who cares about our judiciary.

    Number two, my wife and I, we are raising our twins, our young twins, to be gracious in victory or defeat. And President Trump is obviously having a very difficult time handling the defeat that he suffered before a federal district court judge.

    JOHN YANG: What about his underlying argument, though, that this is allowing, this could allow a terrorist to come into the country?

    BOB FERGUSON: What did I would encourage the president to do is to draft an executive order that’s constitutional. That’s his job. That’s his responsibility.

    My job and my responsibility is to make sure that everybody, including the president, plays by the rules and follows the Constitution. And in a courtroom, it is not the loudest voice that prevails. It’s the Constitution. And that’s why I think we’re prevailing right now.

    JOHN YANG: Attorney General Bob Ferguson from Seattle, thank you very much.

    BOB FERGUSON: Thank you.

    JOHN YANG: And now for a different take on President Trump’s executive order, Republican Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida joins us from Capitol Hill.

    Mr. Yoho, thanks for being with us.

    I don’t know. I hope you were able to hear the attorney general from Washington.

    REP. TED YOHO, R-Fla.: Yes, I was. Yes.

    JOHN YANG: What do you say to him? He says this violates both the Constitution and immigration law. What do you say to that?

    REP. TED YOHO: I disagree with that.

    I think the president — the executive, regardless who it is, has the ability to decide who comes in and doesn’t if it’s a national security risk. And all he’s asking — I have read the executive order — all he’s asking is put a pause on it so that we get the metrics right, so that we can do the background checks correct.

    I don’t see a problem with that. And he’s got in there where you come back in 30 days, reassess it, 60, 90, and 120 days.

    This is a pause. This is not a ban, complete ban. It is a pause. And I think anybody that is concerned with national security, and if you look at our Constitution — he kept talking about being Constitution — the Constitution states very clearly that the number one task of our government is to provide for the common defense and protection of this country.

    And I think, when you look around the world, other areas that have not done this, I think they’re wishing they would have been a little bit more stringent in the examination of people coming in, in the refugee program.

    You know, look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at Germany. And I think this is a time that we have to do that. And it’s — again, it’s a temporary pause. And people, I think, just need to calm down, let us work through the process.

    The courts will work this out. But I think it’s also good that it brought to light how we have to fix our immigration policy. So I welcome that, too.

    JOHN YANG: And the opponents of this are also arguing that — in their court challenge, that this creates — even this ban, this temporary — temporary pause, as you call it, as you say, would create immediate and irreparable injury, in employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel.

    How do you respond to that?

    REP. TED YOHO: You know, I think those are talking points that people are throwing out there.

    There is going to be some inconvenience. But how inconvenient was 9/11? How inconvenient were the attacks in Belgium and Brussels? Those were extreme consequences that came from not vetting people properly.

    We don’t want to make that mistake. Would you rather make the mistake and err on the side of caution or wait until something happens and then answer to the American people, why you didn’t vet these people properly?

    JOHN YANG: In the last Congress, you were on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism.

    Are these countries, the countries that are specified in the executive order, given your experience on that panel, are these the countries you would have chosen?

    REP. TED YOHO: I think these are good countries to put on there.

    You look at Syria, you look at Somalia, you look at these other ones, they don’t have the infrastructure or the I.T. to go back and look at somebody’s birth record, their history, their work records.

    You look at other countries, and we hear, well, Saudi Arabia is not on, and that’s where the 9/11 terrorists came from, or the majority of them. We have sat down with Saudi Arabia, the UAE. In Egypt, they have good technology. They have good I.T. systems where we can do these background checks. In fact, they have beefed that up since then.

    And so we feel comfortable with there. But look at Syria. It’s a nation ravaged with war that they can’t go back and look at these records, or Somalia. You can’t go in there in a country like that.

    Then you look at the people that have infiltrated the refugee programs. We know they’re using fake passports. We know countries that are complicit making fake passports.

    And so let’s get this right. Let’s let people calm down and make sure that we go through the vetting process, and then we will get through this.

    JOHN YANG: If the courts were to block this for longer or even maybe strike it down, is there a congressional fix for this?

    REP. TED YOHO: Yes. Sure.

    It’s going through and doing legislation, passing it in the House and the Senate, and the president will sign it. And these are things that will be stimulated. This is a catalyst that tells us that we should go ahead and get these processes done. So, yes, for sure.

    JOHN YANG: And let me ask you about President Trump’s tweets.

    I know you were elected as a member of the Tea Party. You believe in the Constitution and the three branches of government.

    REP. TED YOHO: Absolutely.

    JOHN YANG: What do you think of him saying — calling this judge a so-called judge and saying, if something happens, blame him?

    REP. TED YOHO: Well, you know, Mr. Trump has his own style, his own technique, his own uniqueness.

    It’s not something I probably would have done, but, again, that’s the way he has evolved to this point in his life. And it’s worked well for him. And I expect you’re going to see more of that.

    That’s a minor thing compared to what he’s trying to do. He’s putting national security in front, where it needs to be. And we have had such a lapsed process over the last probably 15 years, that it’s time that somebody stands up and does that.

    And when you do that, when you have the leadership and the strength to do that, people get upset. And it just takes somebody willing to stand up and take the arrows for that. And, again, it’s a pause. It’s not a ban.

    JOHN YANG: And, also, let me ask, finally. You were very critical of President Obama for his executive orders, for going around Congress.

    REP. TED YOHO: Sure.

    JOHN YANG: How is this different? Why is this case different, in your mind?

    REP. TED YOHO: I think the big thing is, this centers on national security.

    When you look at what President Obama did with the executive order November 20 of 2014, he was giving a blanket amnesty to five million people that came into this country illegally. Again, you can’t vet that many people properly.

    And you can’t use a blanket order for that. That’s not discretionary review of those type of individuals.

    President Trump, on the other side, is standing up on the — erring on the side of caution on a national security basis that I think we all should applaud, that we’re putting the country first and the Constitution of protecting and preserving our freedoms here.

    So, that’s where I see a difference. And if you look at what President Obama did, right before he got out, he removed wet foot-dry foot on our Cuban Adjustment Act. And nobody said a word about that, but yet he did the same thing, and I applaud him for doing that.

    JOHN YANG: Representative Ted Yoho, thanks for joining us.

    REP. TED YOHO: Yes, sir. Have a good evening.

    JOHN YANG: Thank you.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump attends a lunch with members of the U.S. military during a visit at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2ZWGG

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    JOHN YANG: A federal appeals court in California is the focus tonight in the legal war over banning travelers from seven mostly Muslim nations. The flow resumed over the weekend, and today the president again defended his order.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Today, a continued current of arrivals like this one at Dulles Airport outside of Washington, families previously denied entry under President Trump’s travel order now met with applause, some due to the weekend’s court orders, others like brothers Tareq and Ammar Aziz from Yemen because they are green card holders who had to reschedule after confusion over their status.

    TAREQ AZIZ, Green Card Holder: I just wanted to thank all of the people who support us, who were with us. They made me feel like there’s a family here, that we have a family. And that’s what I love about America.

    LISA DESJARDINS: All this following Friday’s ruling by federal Judge James Robart in Seattle that halted several key provisions, at least temporarily.

    That ruling drew a tweetstorm of criticism from the president. “If something happens,” Mr. Trump wrote, “blame him and the court system.”

    He had more to say today at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We need strong programs, so that people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in, not people that want to destroy us and destroy our country.


    LISA DESJARDINS: It was his first visit to U.S. Central Command, the military wing overseeing the Middle East. As he spoke about radical Islamic terror attacks, Mr. Trump’s sharpest criticism was about the media.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported, and in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: We asked the White House for specific examples of unreported terror attacks and didn’t receive a response.

    Meantime, Vice President Pence defended the president’s words about the Seattle judge over the weekend on ABC.

    MIKE PENCE, Vice President of the United States: And the president is determined to use the authority that he has under the Constitution and under the law.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The legal battle has moved fast. The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court over the weekend to reconsider Judge Robart’s action, saying it harms the public by thwarting enforcement, and second-guesses the president’s national security judgment.

    But the attorneys general of Washington State and Minnesota who pushed for the original halt to the order responded back strongly. “Unfreezing it,” they told the appeals court, “would unleash chaos, and would, once again, separate families and strand university students and faculty.”

    Major tech firms, including Uber, Apple and Google, filed their own briefs against the travel ban, saying it will hurt their work forces and the economy. And former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright also filed briefs, saying the ban will harm counterterrorism partnerships with other nations.

    Late today, President Trump returned to Washington, as the appeals court mulled its decision.

    And staff here at the White House just confirmed to me what many people are thinking, that this whole fight over the travel ban could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court — John.

    JOHN YANG: Lisa, we heard President Trump talking about this court case involving his immigration order. What are the officials at the White House saying?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I just came back from talking to Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short.

    He stressed two things. One, this is temporary, that the administration is working on more permanent actions that may not be executive orders, but may be just new forms of vetting. Second, he talked about a real fear that the White House has. He even used these words.

    He said: “I would hate to be explaining a terror attack that could have been prevented by our actions.”

    However, at the same time, John, we now have word that 16 Democratic state attorneys general feel the opposite. They feel the real threat is from this order. And they have filed supportive briefs to those attorneys generals who are fighting it.

    JOHN YANG: And, Lisa, I understand you have gotten a little later word from the White House about this claim of reported terrorist attacks?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    On the plane back from Florida, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters who were there that what the president was talking about was under-reporting of terror plots.

    We pressed that here at the White House a bit more. And I was told that the White House is coming up with a list.

    Of course, the president himself didn’t use the word under-reported. He said not even being reported.

    We’re waiting to see what list they come up with. We haven’t seen that list yet.

    JOHN YANG: Lisa Desjardins on the White House North Lawn.

    In the day’s other news: The Senate went into an around-the-clock session in a showdown over Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to be education secretary.

    She’s a wealthy Republican donor and champion of alternatives to public schools. The Democrats said today they will hold the Senate floor until tomorrow’s confirmation vote.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: She is the least qualified nomination in a historically unqualified Cabinet. On conflicts of interest, she ranks among the worst. On philosophy of education, her views are extreme.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: I have every confidence that Ms. DeVos will lead the Department of Education in such a way that will put our students’ interests first while also strengthening the educational opportunities available to all of America’s children.

    JOHN YANG: Tomorrow’s Senate roll call could come down to a tie. That would leave Vice President Pence to cast the deciding vote, something no other vice president has ever done in a Cabinet confirmation.

    Senior Republicans are brushing aside President Trump’s latest remarks on Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a FOX News interview that aired Sunday, he dismissed Bill O’Reilly’s characterization of Putin as a killer. The president said: “There are a lot of killers.” And he asked, “Our country’s so innocent?”

    Today, Texas Congressman Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, rejected the comparison. He said: “Are we the same as Putin’s Russia? The answer is no.”

    In Afghanistan, bad weather and snow-blocked roads are hampering rescue efforts after avalanches killed at least 119 people over the weekend. Nearly 90 more were hurt. Workers are trying to reach remote villages in the northern part of the country, where nearly 200 homes have been destroyed. Officials say some places were buried under more than six feet of snow.

    The one-time presidential front-runner in France insisted tonight he will not drop out of the race despite an embezzlement scandal. Conservative Francois Fillon has plunged in the polls, opening the door to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who echoes President Trump’s populism. This evening, Fillon defended himself against claims that he put relatives in high-paying government jobs with no real duties.

    FRANCOIS FILLON, French Presidential Candidate (through interpreter): What was acceptable yesterday isn’t anymore today. By working with my wife and my children, I favored this collaboration of trust which today creates distrust. It was a mistake.

    JOHN YANG: The first round of voting in the French election will be in April. Ahead of the balloting, Facebook and Google are teaming up with French news organizations to tackle fake news. The companies say they will provide tools to 17 French newsrooms to help them identify and debunk false stories. Facebook was criticized for not preventing false information from being republished during the American presidential election.

    Wall Street opened the week on a quiet note. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 19 points to close at 20052. The Nasdaq fell three points, and the S&P 500 slipped nearly five.

    And Boston is getting ready for a blowout celebration after New England’s dramatic overtime win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl. The Patriots returned home this afternoon after coming from 25 points behind last night to win 34-28. It’s their fifth NFL title. The city holds a parade tomorrow. We will take a closer look at a game for the ages later in the program.

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    Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a press conference outside U.S. District Court on February 3, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Ferguson filed a state lawsuit challenging key sections of President Trump's immigration Executive Order as illegal and unconstitutional. Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images

    Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a press conference in Seattle last week. Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images

    A top state official battling the Trump administration over its immigration ban said on Monday he was “confident” a federal court would uphold a temporary stay on the executive order.

    Bob Ferguson, the attorney general for Washington state, one of two states challenging the executive order, said in a PBS NewsHour interview that he believed a panel of judges on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would uphold a federal judge’s decision to suspend parts of the immigration policy.

    A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on Tuesday, the next phase in a fast-moving legal battle that could wind up at the Supreme Court.

    “We feel confident with our case, not just at the Ninth Circuit but frankly all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court” if the case makes it that far, Ferguson told PBS NewsHour’s John Yang.

    The executive order placed a temporary 90-day ban on refugees entering the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries, an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, and barred all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days.

    Ferguson and Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson argued in court that several provisions in the policy were unconstitutional.

    In a ruling last week, federal Judge James Robart placed a nationwide stay on parts of the ban, which caused chaos at airports in the U.S. and around the world after President Trump signed the order last month.

    President Trump criticized Robart over the weekend on Twitter, calling him a “so-called judge” and claiming the ruling jeopardized national security. The president’s Twitter post on Robart drew a rebuke from Democrats and some Republicans.

    Ferguson defended Robart in the NewsHour interview, saying he was a “very serious, well-respected judge.” Robart was appointed by President George W. Bush.

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    Photo by Karen Roach/via Adobe

    Should people bother paying the penalty for not having health insurance when they file their taxes this year? Photo by Karen Roach/via Adobe

    In some recent emails, readers asked about what to expect as Republicans move to overhaul the health law. Should people bother paying the penalty for not having health insurance when they file their taxes this year? Will they be able to sign up on the exchange for 2018 after their COBRA benefits end? Here are some answers.

    Q. I didn’t have health insurance for part of last year and thought I’d get stuck paying a penalty. Now the new administration is talking about not enforcing the insurance requirement. Could I really be off the hook at tax time?

    As long as the “individual mandate” — which requires most people to have health coverage or face a tax penalty — is the law of the land, you should pay the fine for not having coverage in 2016 unless you qualify for an exemption, said Tara Straw, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Straw also manages a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site, part of an Internal Revenue Service program that provides free tax filing services for low and middle income taxpayers.

    Straw said she has heard that some tax preparers are advising taxpayers either not to pay the penalty or to delay filing because they anticipate changes in the law.

    Bad idea. “It’s not a thing a reputable tax preparer would do,” Straw said. “The requirement that people have health insurance or an exemption [from the mandate] is still in effect.”

    The confusion stems from uncertainty over Republican officials’ comments that they may do away with the individual mandate when they overhaul the health law. In addition, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January that required federal agencies to waive or exempt health law-related provisions that would impose costs or penalties on individuals, to the extent permitted by law.

    One strategy that has been discussed has been to broaden the hardship exemption so more people would qualify for it, which the secretary of Health and Human Services has the authority to do.

    However, Straw says that approach might run into trouble. “A hardship has to mean something, you can’t say that everyone has a hardship,” she said. “Complying with the law is not considered a hardship.”

    Some experts say changing the rules now could create even more confusion, since some people have already filed their returns. Those taxpayers might have to file amended returns, an extra expense if they use a tax preparer.

    “Since the 2016 tax season is already underway, I would think it unlikely that the Treasury Department would say, ‘Don’t bother paying the penalty,’” said Mark Luscombe, a principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, an information services company.

    Q. I’m currently on a COBRA plan that ends on Dec. 31, 2017. Then I was going to choose a plan on the exchange for 2018. If the exchange exists in 2018, do you think there would be a special enrollment period allowed for new sign-ups like me when my current coverage ends?

    Under the health law, people who have certain life changes, including losing other types of health insurance such as COBRA, are entitled to a special enrollment period to enroll in coverage on the exchange. But in your case, you wouldn’t actually need a special enrollment period because your COBRA will end during the regular annual open enrollment period that is scheduled to run from Nov. 1, 2017, to Jan. 31, 2018. (This coverage comes from a federal law that generally allows people who lose or leave their jobs to stay on the company insurance plan for up to 18 months if they pay the full price of coverage.)

    Republican proposals to replace the health law typically include provisions that guarantee people will be able to buy coverage when COBRA or other coverage ends, said Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University Law School who has examined and written about the proposals.

    Insurers are skittish, however, about some of the Republican ideas, such as eliminating the individual mandate and the continuing uncertainty about what the individual market will look like next year. At this point it’s unclear what type of coverage will be available.

    “The question is: Are the exchanges in place, are the subsidies in place and will premiums be affordable for those who don’t have subsidies?” said Laurel Lucia, manager of the health care program at the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. “And will there even be an option to buy individual insurance in some parts of the country if no insurers are participating?”

    This story was published by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

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    People gather to protest outside the Uber offices in Queens, New York, U.S., February 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2ZF3C

    People gather to protest outside the Uber offices in Queens, New York, on Feb. 2, 2017. Most people think it’s bad for business when companies get political. But Daniel Korschun says research shows otherwise. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim countries has put corporate executives in a bind. Almost from the moment he announced the ban, questions poured in about where those executives stood on the issue.

    The media have highlighted a cluster of companies that have made public statements against the executive order. For example, Netflix called it “un-American,” while Ford Motor Company said: “We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”

    It may be more dangerous to remain silent than to take a political stand.

    But overlooked are the many more companies that tried to distance themselves from the debate. Chevron, Disney, Verizon, GM, Wells Fargo and others have all taken a wait-and-see approach. An illustrative example is Morgan Stanley, which expressed concern and said it is “closely monitoring developments.”

    Such responses are no doubt based on the prevailing wisdom that companies need to stay out of politics. Most large corporations have diverse constituencies that draw from both sides of the political spectrum. As a result, executives fear that attracting the political spotlight by taking a stand on the executive order will alienate either the millions of customers who voted for Trump or the millions who voted against him.

    My research suggests their fears are misplaced. And in fact, the opposite may be true: It may be more dangerous to remain silent than to take a political stand.

    Violating expectations

    Consumers today form relationships with a company based not only on the quality of the products and services it sells but also on a set of expectations of how it should comport itself (see also here).

    When companies violate these expectations by behaving inconsistently, consumers reconsider that relationship. Obviously, this can have a major impact on company performance if many customers experience a violation.

    My colleagues and I at Clemson University and Drexel University have been testing this notion in a series of controlled experiments.

    In one field experiment, for example, we exposed study participants to statements about a pharmacy chain moments before they entered one of its stores. Some read a statement in which the company described itself as guided by a set of values (what we call a “values orientation”), while others read that it tries to adapt to whatever market conditions warrant (a “results orientation”).

    These statements established participants’ political expectations of the company. We predicted that for a values-oriented company, taking a stand would align with expectations but that abstaining would violate expectations.

    Participants then read a short article reporting that the company had either just taken a stand on proposed gun control legislation (we randomized what side of the issue the company took) or had abstained from making a comment. After shopping, participants reported their in-store experience and whether or not they had bought anything that they hadn’t planned to purchase before entering the store. We used the unplanned purchase to indicate the impact of the political stand on the customer-company relationship.

    In general, unplanned purchases remained consistent no matter how the company reacted to the political issue. That is, about 18 percent of participants made an unplanned purchase whether they read that the company had taken a position or not.

    But when we accounted for expectations set by the company, the effects were stunning. For a values-oriented company, 24 percent of participants made an unplanned purchases when it took a stand, but that dropped to just 9 percent when it abstained – violating expectations. For a results-oriented company, the effect was reversed: Unplanned purchasing was 26 percent when it abstained and dropped to 13 percent when it took a stand (again, violating expectations).

    Even after accounting for the personal view of the participant and whether his or her state voted Republican or Democratic in the 2016 election, purchasing behavior was significantly affected if the company went against prior expectations.

    Costs of staying silent

    Additional experiments reveal that consumers behave this way because they find it hypocritical for a company that claims to be “guided by core values” to then withhold its position on a political issue. The implication appears to be that the company is hiding something and therefore trying to deceive its customer base. Conversely, reinforcing expectations may forge trust and enhance relationships with customers.

    Additional experiments reveal that consumers behave this way because they find it hypocritical for a company that claims to be “guided by core values” to then withhold its position on a political issue.

    For a real-world quasi experiment on the potential costs of staying silent, we need look no further than Lyft’s and Uber’s respective responses to President Trump’s executive order. Lyft reacted by publicly opposing the order and pledging US$1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Uber was more equivocal. In a Facebook post, CEO Travis Kalanick acknowledged concerns and said he would raise the issue “this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump’s first business advisory group meeting.”

    As part of a poll I administer periodically to gauge reactions to companies that take political stands, a group of leading scholars were asked to grade Lyft and Uber on their respective approaches. The panel was generally favorable toward Lyft, although conservative panelists questioned whether its actions would have a lasting impact on the political issue at hand.

    However, Uber was criticized by scholars of all political persuasions for not confronting the issue. Panelists thought Uber was taking some leadership by reacting quickly, but its lackluster response was not consistent with its purported beliefs as a bold game-changer. It is little surprising, then, that the move motivated many customers to uninstall the Uber app from their phones. Uber received so many requests, in fact, that it had to implement a new automated process to handle all the deletions. The company later announced in an email to defecting customers that the executive order was “wrong” and “unjust.” Kalanick also resigned from President Trump’s business advisory council.

    Feet to the fire

    The danger of inaction – as Uber’s experience shows – is real. In remaining silent on important societal issues, executives may be harming performance more than they think.

    It is no longer enough to engage government solely through private channels, although that will certainly be necessary as well. Consumers are willing to hold executives’ feet to the fire if they believe the executives are betraying corporate values.

    This may be especially true for companies that forcefully advocated for free trade, access to a global talent pool, action on climate change and inclusivity for all orientations and religious backgrounds during Barack Obama’s tenure. My research suggests that both liberals and conservatives could view it as a breach of trust to abandon those beliefs by acquiescing to a swing of the political pendulum.

    Consumers are willing to hold executives’ feet to the fire if they believe the executives are betraying corporate values.

    Though our current political environment is polarized and contentious, most people still find failures of sincerity more troubling than differences of opinion. As long as a company is not being deceptive by obfuscating its beliefs, consumers can be surprisingly tolerant of a company that holds an opposing view.

    So to corporate executives: Your constituents are watching. They acknowledge that your company has a distinct set of values. They are asking for you to be forthright. And they want to know that you have the gumption to stand up for your stated values.

    The Conversation

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The post Column: Should companies stay politically neutral? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    If Farhan Al Qadri could bring his adult son to the U.S., what would he show him first? “I would show him the city of Lancaster; I would show him America,” he said. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    If Farhan Al Qadri could bring his adult son to the U.S., what would he show him first? “I would show him the city of Lancaster; I would show him America,” he said. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    When Syrian refugee Farhan Al Qadri arrived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 2015, he didn’t know what life would bring. Two years later, he has a steady job and his family is doing well. But on one important matter — reuniting with his adult son, who is waiting in Jordan to come to the U.S. — things are more uncertain than ever.

    Al Qadri said he had hoped that once his family members in the U.S. – his wife, two daughters and two sons – all got their green cards, they would be able to get Ahmed, who has been living in Jordan since the family escaped the fighting in Syria, to join them. But once they received their green cards, he learned it could still take years to reunite with his son.

    “He’s a young man in his 20s and he wants to start his life, get married,” Al Qadri recently said through an interpreter. “I don’t know if he can just sit and wait for years and years for something unknown, like whether we can bring him or not. I really don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

    Neither does Maha, Al Qadri’s 19-year-old daughter. She is attending Harrisburg Community College on a scholarship and is studying to become a pharmacist. She’s also engaged to a Syrian man studying civil engineering in Jordan, who she met while her family was there undergoing screening to come to the U.S.

    “I will get married this summer if I can travel (to Jordan). I am scared that I can’t, because I’m Syrian,” she said. Even with a green card, she’s worried she wouldn’t be able to get back into the U.S. because of the new executive order, and has no idea what her husband would do. In the meantime, “I talk to him every day.” About? “Everything,” she laughs.

    Sheila Mastropietro, director of the Church World Service’s Immigration and Refugee Program in Lancaster, which helped resettle the Al Qadris, said one of the State Department’s priorities is to keep families together. Spouses, unmarried children under age 21, and parents of asylum-seekers and refugees can get priority in the resettlement program, once DNA confirms the relation.

    She said refugees who have resettled in the area have been calling her office wondering what will become of their family members living abroad. “They’re scared. They’re asking about ‘my parents, my sister, my brother, are they going to come?’”

    On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order putting a 120-day hold on the refugee resettlement program, including an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees. A federal judge in Washington state has stopped the ban for now. The Department of Justice is fighting the ruling. Oral arguments before a federal appeals panel are scheduled for Tuesday.

    President Trump issued the executive order to protect American citizens and keep potential terrorists out of the U.S., he has said. According to the order, some countries, namely Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, are not providing adequate information for screening purposes.

    The seven named countries “in my view, don’t have the kind of law enforcement, records keeping … that can convince us that one of their citizens is indeed who that citizen says they are and what their background might be,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at a Jan. 31 press briefing.

    Additional vetting measures could include looking up websites the applicants visit, telephone contact information to see who they’re talking to, and reviewing their social media accounts, said Kelly. “We are developing what additional vetting — extreme vetting — might look like,” he said.

    Watch the full briefing with Kelly and other homeland and border security officials.

    While opponents of the ban — who include former secretaries of state John Kerry and Madeleine Albright — say refugees already undergo a lengthy, intensive screening process, others contend that something more must be done with threats of terrorism at home and abroad on the rise.

    A Gallup poll said 42 percent of Americans approved of a temporary ban for the seven named countries and 36 percent approved of indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee program.

    A Quinnipiac poll had a higher number, showing 48 percent of American voters support “suspending immigration from terror-prone regions, even if it means turning away refugees.”

    Steven Childers, 42, a disabled Marine veteran who lives in Riverside, California, said he backs President Trump’s efforts “100 percent.”

    “I think he’s going on the advisements of his military and the people that know best how to defend this country,” Childers said. “I think by him doing this will keep … us a little bit safer from people getting in the country and carrying out these attacks.

    “Not all Muslims, but the Muslim extremists, they hate Americans, they hate Christians, and they just want to do us harm,” he said. By signing the order, “it gives [President Trump] time and the military time to strategize how we’re going to deal with these people that quite frankly just want to kill us.”

    Childers said the mainstream media should report on radical Muslims but also what most Muslims are really like, just regular people, some of whom he met at his son’s basketball game. “Two of the boys were Muslim and they were two of the best players on the team,” he said. “I sat and talked to (one boy’s) dad during the game and told him how good his son was, and he was really proud of his son.”

    Advocacy groups are trying to educate the public about who the refugees are, where they come from and why they left their homes.

    “Once they have an opportunity to look and understand what goes into the vetting of refugees, they’ll have a much better understanding of who these refugees are,” said Erol Kekic, executive director of Church World Service’s Immigration and Refugee Program.

    President Donald Trump’s executive order prompted spontaneous protests at airports, lawyers among the crowd offering free help. The sign in Arabic reads "Have you been stopped and questioned, we would like to talk to you, to assist with a lawyer." Photo by Mike Theiler/Reuters

    President Donald Trump’s executive order prompted spontaneous protests at airports, lawyers among the crowd offering free help. The sign in Arabic reads “Have you been stopped and questioned, we would like to talk to you, to assist with a lawyer.” Photo by Mike Theiler/Reuters

    Church World Service, one of nine resettlement agencies in the U.S., started a campaign this year called Greater as 1 to introduce visitors to some of the refugees and provide options to help.

    “We have seen a great deal of support coming forward saying, we do want refugees here, they make our nation better and we want to continue to be the one nation in the world that will lead by example,” said Kekic. “We want to harness that support of communities around the United States who are still standing in solidarity with refugees.”

    Other online petitions and calls to action have cropped up as well, including an Evangelical-led campaign called We Welcome Refugees, an Amnesty International effort called No Refugee-Bashing in My Name, and an online petition signed by thousands of academics and dozens of Nobel laureates.

    Maha Al Qadri said she feels terrible for the Iraqis, Yemenis and citizens from the other countries named in the temporary ban who are looking to come to the U.S. Without knowing first-hand, as she does, how welcoming Americans can be, “they must think, ‘people hate me’,” she said.

    More resources:

    The post For Syrian refugees, uncertainty as legal battle over immigration ban unfolds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A foreclosed home is seen for sale in Santa Ana, California, May 24, 2011. Sales of newly built U.S.single-family homes rose for a second straight month in April and supply was the lowest in a year, but an overhang of previously owned houses on the market could hobble recovery. The Commerce Department said on Tuesday sales increased 7.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted 323,000 unit annual rate, the highest since December, also giving prices a lift. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTR2MUOX

    Owning homes in distressed housing markets reduced job seekers’ mobility, damaging their long-term career prospects. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    Making Sense/NBER logo

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to feature these summaries regularly on our page.

    The following summary was written by the NBER and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e.

    The housing crash of 2007 and 2008 devastated many homeowners who suddenly found themselves facing an array of woes, from owning homes no longer worth the purchase prices to keeping up with mortgage payments amidst one of the worst recessions in generations. In “Locked in by Leverage: Job Search During the Housing Crisis,” Jennifer Brown and David A. Matsa find that being underwater on a mortgage in a distressed housing market impeded the job searches of these homeowners by reducing their mobility. Constraining their job searches reduced mobility, likely damaging their long-term compensation and career prospects.

    READ MORE: Did the nation’s largest housing recovery initiative work?

    Housing market downturns can devastate homeowners’ overall wealth, and lower housing values can actually “lock in” owners who can’t sell their homes with negative equity, forcing them to remain in their homes and limiting their mobility to buy homes and find work elsewhere. But little is known about how a housing bust specifically affects the labor supply, largely because it’s difficult to separate effects on the labor supply and on labor demand.

    Constraining their job searches reduced mobility, likely damaging their long-term compensation and career prospects.

    These researchers studied the crash’s effect on job searches. With data from a large online job search platform, they analyzed more than 4 million applications to 60,000 online job postings in the financial services sector between May 2008 and December 2009. The data encompassed a rich array of jobs, including posts for bank tellers, administrative assistants, software engineers, account executives and financial advisers. The postings were spread across all 50 states, 12,157 ZIP codes and more than 700 commuting zones.

    The researchers matched information from the job search platform to housing market data. Monthly estimates of home values and borrowing were drawn from Zillow and CoreLogic’s Loan-Level Market Analytics, while labor market data came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.


    Home value declines and the presence of negative equity led job seekers in depressed housing markets to apply for fewer jobs that required relocation. A 30 percent decline in home values led to a 15 percent decline in applications for jobs outside of the job seeker’s commuting zone.

    When job searchers were constrained geographically due to the “lock in” effect of lower home values, they were more likely to apply for lower-level and lower-paying positions within their commuting zone.

    When job searchers were constrained geographically due to the “lock in” effect of lower home values, they were more likely to apply for lower-level and lower-paying positions within their commuting zone.

    This constrained search pattern was particularly pronounced in distressed housing markets with recourse mortgages, which allow lenders to go after a defaulting homeowner’s other assets. The researchers found clear job-search differences in border areas in which one state allowed recourse mortgages and the other did not.

    From the standpoint of firms, the constrained search of some prospective workers had two effects. Firms had reduced access to a national labor market if millions of Americans couldn’t or wouldn’t relocate due to housing value concerns. At the same time, firms within distressed housing markets faced less competition for labor and benefited by being able to hire well-qualified workers at lower salaries than they might otherwise have had to offer.

    The researchers conclude that the housing market has important effects on the labor market, as “workers who accept positions below their skill or experience levels forego opportunities to build their human capital.” They note that those forced to seek lower-level jobs than they would typically consider could also crowd out other workers, who in turn suffer, creating a far-reaching labor market ripple effect “even if housing market constraints are short-lived.”

    — Jay Fitzgerald, National Bureau of Economic Research

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    Dec. 6 photo of the Oceti Sakowin camp while "water protectors" demonstrated against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Dec. 6 photo of the Oceti Sakowin camp while “water protectors” demonstrated against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the final easement needed to finish construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

    In a letter to Congress, the agency said it approved a section of the pipeline that will run under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, clearing the way for the completion of the four-state, 1,170-mile pipeline.

    The Army Corps said it would waive the 14-day wait period required after notifying Congress of the approval to officially grant an easement to Energy Transfer Partners, the builder of the $3.8 billion pipeline. This means the company can restart construction in 24 hours.

    The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has said that they would “vigorously pursue legal action” if the easement was granted.

    The months-long protests against the pipeline became a flash point for Native Americans, leading to the largest indigenous movement in modern history.

    The pipeline was scheduled to be completed and operational last year until protesters,including environmental and indigenous activists, descended on the rural North Dakota site to delay the project. The pipeline’s path ran north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

    The tribe protested the pipeline for months, citing concerns over contamination of the Missouri River water supply and damage to cultural sites on their land. Energy Transfer said the pipeline was safer for transporting oil than rail or trucks.

    The Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline were put on hold during the Obama administration. But new executive orders by President Trump begin putting them back on track, as part of efforts to undo former President Obama’s legacy. How do these moves fit into the broader Trump agenda for energy and the environment? William Brangham talks with Valerie Volcovici of Reuters.

    In December, the Army Corps halted construction, saying it wouldn’t green-light the final permits for the project until further environmental review was provided. In today’s letter, however, the corps proposed terminating the Environmental Impact Statement that was in progress.

    After taking office, President Donald Trump signed executive actions that aimed to curb these type of reviews and sought to lift projects that were once stopped or delayed under former President Barack Obama. The Army said late last month it had been directed to expedite the review of the Standing Rock route.

    A notice in the Federal Register on Jan. 18 said the Army would gather comments on the project through Feb. 20 as it prepared an environmental impact statement. The final easement appears to shorten that period for comments.

    The documents below were filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.

    DAPL notice by PBS NewsHour on Scribd

    WATCH: Seeing impediments to jobs, Trump prioritizes pipelines over environmental protections

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  • 02/07/17--14:09: Executive power: A quiz
  • President Trump has been in office less than three weeks, but he’s already signed nearly two dozen executive orders. The flurry of actions on health care, immigration and other issues have generated a lot of attention — and some confusion — about executive orders, and how Trump’s actions compare to previous presidents.

    Do you know the difference between an executive order and a presidential memorandum? Or which president signed the most executive orders? We created a quiz to help you keep all the facts straight.

    The post Executive power: A quiz appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Listen in tonight to a live audio stream of the hearing, where state officials and officials from the Department of Justice will make their case before the Ninth Circuit panel. The oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET. PBS NewsHour will stream the audio.

    SAN FRANCISCO — President Donald Trump’s travel ban faced its biggest legal test yet Tuesday as a panel of federal judges prepared to hear arguments from the administration and its opponents about two fundamentally divergent views of the executive branch and the court system.

    The government will ask a federal appeals court to restore Trump’s executive order, contending that the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States. But several states have challenged the ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations and insisted that it is unconstitutional.

    Tuesday’s hearing was to unfold before a randomly selected panel of judges from the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It was unlikely the court would issue a ruling Tuesday, with a decision expected later this week, court spokesman David Madden said.

    Whatever the court eventually decides, either side could ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

    U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who on Friday temporarily blocked Trump’s order, has said a judge’s job is to ensure that an action taken by the government “comports with our country’s laws.”

    Trump said Tuesday that he can’t believe his administration has to fight in the courts to uphold his refugee and immigration ban, a policy he says will protect the country.

    “And a lot of people agree with us, believe me,” Trump said at a roundtable discussion with members of the National Sheriff’s Association. “If those people ever protested, you’d see a real protest. But they want to see our borders secure and our country secure.”

    The same day, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told lawmakers that the order likely should have been delayed at least long enough to brief Congress about it.

    The Justice Department filed a new defense of the ban Monday. Lawyers said it was a “lawful exercise” of the president’s authority to protect national security and said Robart’s order should be overruled.

    The filing with the appeals court was the latest salvo in a high-stakes legal fight surrounding Trump’s order, which temporarily suspends the country’s refugee program and immigration from seven countries with terrorism concerns.

    Washington state, Minnesota and other states say the appellate court should allow a temporary restraining order blocking the travel ban to stand as their lawsuit moves through the legal system.

    A Constitutional showdown is underway over President Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. In Seattle, a federal judge issued a temporary halt to Trump’s travel ban, resulting in an appeal from the Justice Department. John Yang gets two takes on the legal arguments from Washington state Attorney General Robert Ferguson and Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

    The panel hearing the arguments includes two Democrat-appointed judges and one Republican appointee.

    The appeals court over the weekend refused to immediately reinstate the ban, and lawyers for Washington and Minnesota argued anew on Monday that any resumption would “unleash chaos again,” separating families and stranding university students.

    The Justice Department responded that the president has clear authority to “suspend the entry of any class of aliens” to the U.S. in the name of national security. It said the travel ban was intended “to permit an orderly review and revision of screening procedures to ensure that adequate standards are in place to protect against terrorist attacks.”

    The challengers of the ban were asking “courts to take the extraordinary step of second-guessing a formal national security judgment made by the president himself,” the Justice Department wrote.

    It’s possible that the panel could make a ruling on a technical point, rather than the larger merits of the case. Under 9th Circuit case law, temporary restraining orders cannot be appealed, a point noted by the states.

    An analysis on that point would include examining whether the lower court’s order is properly classified as a temporary restraining order rather than as another type of order, a preliminary injunction, noted Arthur Hellman, a federal courts scholar at University of Pittsburgh Law School.

    If the case does end up before the Supreme Court, it could prove difficult to find the necessary five votes to undo a lower court order. The Supreme Court has been at less than full strength since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death a year ago. The last immigration case that reached the justices ended in a 4-4 tie.

    How and when a case might get to the Supreme Court is unclear. The travel ban itself is to expire in 90 days, meaning it could run its course before a higher court takes up the issue. Or the administration could change it in any number of ways that would keep the issue alive.

    After Robart’s ruling, the State Department quickly said people from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — with valid visas could travel to the U.S.

    A graduate student who had traveled to Libya with her 1-year-old son to visit her sick mother and attend her father’s funeral was back in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Monday after having been stopped in Jordan on her return trip. She was welcomed with flowers and balloons by her husband and other children.

    Syrian immigrant Mathyo Asali said he thought his life was “ruined” when he landed at Philadelphia International Airport on Jan. 28 only to be denied entry to the United States. Asali, who returned to Damascus, said he figured he’d be inducted into the Syrian military. He was back on U.S. soil Monday.

    “It’s really nice to know that there’s a lot of people supporting us,” Asali told Gov. Tom Wolf, who greeted the family at a relative’s house in Allentown.

    States challenging the ban have been joined by technology companies, who have said it makes it more difficult to recruit employees. National security officials under President Barack Obama have also come out against it.

    Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Martha Bellisle and Gene Johnson in Seattle, Matthew Barakat in Chantilly, Virginia, Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Colleen Slevin in Denver and Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: All of the changes to Trump’s executive order on immigration, explained

    The post LISTEN LIVE: Appeals court hears arguments over Trump’s immigration ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    - FILE PHOTO 22MAY95 - The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building stands ready for implosion in Oklahoma City in this May 22, 1995 file photo. This view is from what used to be a parking lot north of the building. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh spent the last night of his life in a small, windowless cell not far from the chemicals and devices that will be used to kill him on June 11, 2001 for a crime that took 168 lives and shook a complacent America to the core. - RTXKK73

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    AUDIE CORNISH: Finally tonight: 1995 was the year of the largest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.

    A new documentary premieres tonight on the PBS series “American Experience” and takes a fresh look at that traumatic event and what led to it.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    MAN: There’s heavy damage done.

    JEFFREY BROWN: April 19, 1995.

    MAN: About a third of the building has been blown away.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A Ryder rental truck with 5,000 pounds of explosives ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; 168 people were killed, 19 children among them.

    WOMAN: Who has come in here and done this terrible thing?

    BARAK GOODMAN, Director, “Oklahoma City: I knew very little of the story. I mean, I remember — like a lot of people remember that day, and the image of that building, you know, with its face blown off, an image that we weren’t used to or accustomed to at the time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Barak Goodman is the director of the film “Oklahoma City.”

    BARAK GOODMAN: While I think a lot of people remember this as a simple story of a lone terrorist committing an act, it actually has very deep roots. And when we pulled on those roots, a whole ‘nother story sort of appeared.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The film delves into the rise of white nationalist militias in the 1980s, and two later events that galvanized the country and deeply influenced Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh: the siege of Ruby Ridge in 1992, when the FBI and U.S. Marshals confronted Randy Weaver at his home in rural Idaho, resulting in the deaths of Weaver’s wife, son and a U.S. Marshal.

    And the following year, Waco, Texas, when federal agents, responding to reports of weapons stockpiling, attempted to arrest the leader of a religious sect known as the Branch Davidians. A firefight broke out, killing 10, including four ATF agents. And after a 51-day standoff, the complex went up in flames as agents moved in with tear gas. More than 70 people died.

    During the long standoff, then 24-year-old Army veteran Timothy McVeigh had been watching nearby.

    WOMAN: Timothy McVeigh had already apparently been very concerned about what had happened at Ruby Ridge. So he came down to Waco and sold bumper stickers with pro-gun, anti-government slogans.

    He saw the raid as clear evidence of what the government would do to try to confiscate guns and persecute gun owners.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Timothy McVeigh himself wasn’t a member of a militia, but you’re convinced that that context is the way to understand him?

    BARAK GOODMAN: Without question.

    McVeigh himself writes — he talks in interviews that we got access to and tape-recorded interviews about the anger he felt, the rage he felt at Ruby Ridge in particular, and Waco, and the radicalization that happened in part because of those events, and, in addition to that, a series of other exposures to this movement.

    “The Turner Diaries” was his bible. “The Turner Diaries” is a horrible novel, racist novel that became a — it’s almost a talisman to this movement, a very important motivating force. And I think it actually describes the bombing of an FBI building in Washington.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s even a model.

    BARAK GOODMAN: It describes the kind of bomb. It’s very similar to the one McVeigh used.

    So, he was steeped in the ideas of this movement. He was steeped in the ideology. It’s a very diffuse movement. And being a member of a militia is really sort of irrelevant.

    JERRY FLOWERS, Police Inspector: We could hear people screaming. We could hear them screaming. We could hear them crying. You just couldn’t see them because it was so dark.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The documentary breaks often from that history to return to the bombing itself, talking with eyewitnesses who still hold painful memories.

    MAN: They had no idea.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It shows how much confusion there was initially about who had carried it out, and the surprise when McVeigh was arrested.

    MAN: I think everybody felt this sudden sense of betrayal. I think everyone thought, you’re one of us.

    BARAK GOODMAN: People forget that, in the days and hours after the bombing, everyone assumed it had been Middle Eastern terrorism. This was bandied about on national television and CNN and CBS and all the networks. They were all focused on Middle Eastern terrorism. And their sources were telling them that it was likely a Middle Eastern terrorist.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The film also shows the role conspiracy theories about Waco and Ruby Ridge played in roiling this right-wing movement. Some will no doubt see parallels to today.

    Goodman takes a longer view.

    BARAK GOODMAN: I would say that this is a movement that waxes and wanes throughout American history and sort of appears in different forms, whether it’s going back to Shays’ Rebellion at the beginning of the history of our country, up through the Red Scare, the Klan years.

    There’s a lot of different manifestations. But what unites all of it are two things, really. One is a deep enmity towards the federal government, a feeling that the federal government is the seed of all evil and it’s a tool in the hands of enemies, like the Jews, like blacks, like the U.N. now.

    The other thing that really characterizes it is sort of conspiratorial thinking, that — a way of connecting dots that places movement in a kind of context of a war.

    KERRY NOBLE, Former Militia Member: And in this war, it’s an all or nothing. We are either going to win as the white race, or we’re going to lose.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Despite the theories of a larger conspiracy at work, the film shows how McVeigh, with some help from two friends, was able to pull off the bombing.

    Did you come to any conclusions about how this act of domestic terrorism changed the country or changed our sense of our own security, ourselves?

    BARAK GOODMAN: I think it had a tremendously transformative effect.

    I think, first of all, for law enforcement, there was never again a naivete about the threat from domestic terrorism. I think, if you went to the FBI today and you really talked to people, unlike perhaps some politicians, they are very focused on the threat from domestic terrorism. They understand it and they’re paying attention to it.

    And I think, just for the ordinary citizen, although this movement is so — kind of oscillates. It sort of can, and it did after Oklahoma City, retreat and recede, that we sometimes forget about it. It’s still there. It never goes away. And then it will come back.

    And I think, in recent years, you have seen more and more of an uptick. Dylann Roof in Charleston and any number of other such actions are no longer quite as shocking. We understand that this is part now of a motif in American life. And I think that the recent incarnation of that started with Oklahoma City and Timothy McVeigh.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From Washington, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    AUDIE CORNISH: “Oklahoma City” airs tonight on most PBS stations.

    The post Tracing the roots of the America’s biggest domestic terror attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the story of an African-American family that knows autism firsthand and the particular challenges facing communities of color.

    Autism rates among African-Americans are the same as rates among whites, but African-American children are often diagnosed with autism at an older age, missing potential years of treatment.

    Special correspondent John Donvan and producer Caren Zucker have our report.

    JOHN DONVAN: Here’s how handsome this man named Jason Harlan is, this 29-year-old, who lives just outside Chicago. And it’s his mother’s thought — her name is Debra Vines — that with looks like these:

    DEBRA VINES, Founder, The Answer, Inc.: Jason’s going to be the first autism model on the cover of “GQ” magazine.


    JOHN DONVAN: That’s the dream?

    DEBRA VINES: It is.

    JOHN DONVAN: Now, the obstacles to that ever happening may seem huge, because Jason does indeed have autism of a kind that means he has quite limited language, so that only a very few people like his dad, James, have the insight it takes for real two-way communication with him.

    Jason also has a limited repertoire of skills, like tidying up, which he excels at and loves. But, in most ways, for meeting his own basic needs, he has to count on constant help from others.

    And then there is this other factor complicating Jason’s journey through life. He is black. And when you are black and autistic, you face a set of disparities that significantly raise the challenges. They begin with the fact that, when it comes to autism, diagnosis skews white.

    Neuropsychologist Laura Anthony puts it bluntly:

    LAURA ANTHONY, Neuropsychologist: If you’re anything other than a 7-year-old white boy, even if you’re a 7-year-old white girl, you’re less likely to be identified with autism.

    JOHN DONVAN: It’s in the CDC’s own statistics, where the reported autism rate among black 8-year-olds, 13.2 kids per every thousand, lags the percent of white 8-year-olds by nearly 20 percent. Among Latino children, the gap is even larger, at 50 percent.

    Anthony is a clinician and researcher who works with a lot of kids who have autism, like 9-year-old Jaja (ph). She says the undercounting of children of color denies them appropriate care. It happens in part because autism diagnosis is a judgment call on a child’s behaviors, and inadvertently:

    LAURA ANTHONY: We have a bias, even though we don’t want to, that that’s what autism looks like.

    JOHN DONVAN: Jason, in fact, escaped that particular bias. He was diagnosed with autism at 18 months, which is actually early.

    Rather, it is another sort of discrepancy that has challenged him, which his mom illustrated by taking us all out on a stroll to where the Des Plaines River, north of Chicago, flows between two communities, Maywood, where she lives to the north, and which is mostly black, and to the south, the mostly white community of River Forest.

    DEBRA VINES: Once you’re in River Forest, the services for the special needs is like the Holy Grail. The services just open up for special rec, for education, for advocacy, for ABA.

    JOHN DONVAN: So, compared to that way, where you live?

    DEBRA VINES: There’s no special rec this way.

    Oh. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

    JOHN DONVAN: Now, Debra is not a complainer. She’s an agitator. There’s a difference. The first afternoon we spent with her, she was setting the table for a gala dinner and auction in support of her own startup, whose name is:

    DEBRA VINES: The Answer, Inc.

    JOHN DONVAN: The Answer?

    DEBRA VINES: The Answer, because so many families are always asking questions, so we want to be able to provide the answers.

    JOHN DONVAN: Because she knew, firsthand, since Jason was little back in the 1980s, just how far behind her community was in being able to help people like her boy.

    That’s when she had to travel half-an-hour by train to get to a support group, only to find that:

    DEBRA VINES: I was the only African-American there. And this was, I would say, middle- to upper-class families, so they would drive a Mercedes. They would, you know, had on nice jewelry. They had their children with specialized services, just an array of things. And I just felt really isolated.

    JOHN DONVAN: Did you get a cold shoulder?

    DEBRA VINES: Absolutely not. They were very welcoming. I guess a lot of it might have been me, the fact that I had to go outside my community, and then find out that you’re doing it all wrong, Debra. You’re doing it all wrong. And it’s because of where you live.

    JOHN DONVAN: Meanwhile, she also learned that her own African-American community wasn’t entirely accepting of Jason’s differences.

    DEBRA VINES: One particular church that we were going to, the pastor came and told me that a couple of people had come to him and said that they were uncomfortable with Jason standing up during the sermon, and being disruptive, he was being disruptive, and things like that.

    JOHN DONVAN: And James told me that isolation comes also from shame, which he admitted to feeling, when he started to feel embarrassed that his kid wasn’t like his friends’ kids.

    JAMES HARLAN, Father of Jason: These milestones, they’re talking this, that, and the other. And I said, well, Jason learned how to tie his shoes. And then you get these looks. He’s 7 years old and he just now learned to tie his shoes?

    JOHN DONVAN: What did you feel?

    JAMES HARLAN: I literally got a warm feeling came all over me from being embarrassed. And what that made me do is kind of withdraw myself, you know, being honest, let me draw back. I wouldn’t say anything about by son. Eventually, I quit going to the sports bar.

    JOHN DONVAN: The isolation hit other families in the community with autistic kids. And there were many. These are their faces. But they were cut off from each other, instead of organizing to demand more support for their loved ones, as families in white communities had been doing for decades.

    But this local state senator, Kimberly Lightford, says shame and stigma are only part of it.

    KIMBERLY LIGHTFORD, Illinois State Senator: I think the connection is just being underprivileged, underutilized, communities of color not receiving proper resources, lack of job opportunities that provide insurance.

    So, you have families, they just do enough to get by, but all of those essentials, I can’t go to the doctor because I’m on public assistance, or I can’t go to get this additional help, just because I feel like I can’t do it.

    JOHN DONVAN: But here’s what’s changed around Maywood. Remember that gala that Debra was setting up? Well, now it’s the night itself, where she showed up, dolled up like it was the 1920s. So did everybody else. Harlem Nights was the theme.

    DEBRA VINES: Actually, Jason is the reason why The Answer, Incorporated was started, because of Jason, because if I didn’t have a child with autism, I would definitely support the cause, but I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing.

    JOHN DONVAN: And these many families, once cut off from each other, here, they were a big family together, out in public, proud of who they are, touched by autism, unburdened by shame, and grateful that Debra started The Answer.

    MAN: It’s helped to educate the community, police departments, other kids.

    WOMAN: I feel like I’m not in it by myself with The Answer.

    WOMAN: Thank God somebody, you know, especially a person of color.

    JOHN DONVAN: There’s also a program called Just For Men, which James runs. Having long since stopped being embarrassed by Jason, today, he feels grateful to have this man as his son.

    JAMES HARLAN: And I tell the men at the meeting, I have learned how to love since I have had Jason.

    JOHN DONVAN: More than ever before?

    JAMES HARLAN: Yes. Oh, yes.

    JOHN DONVAN: How so? Why?

    JAMES HARLAN: Because he loves unconditional. There’s no conditions tied to his love.

    JOHN DONVAN: The Answer has served 4,000 families in its nine years, but, still, it’s a work in progress.

    One challenge met, however, concerns church. This is Jordan Temple Baptist, whose pastor Stephen Richardson, says autistic kids, autistic adults are all welcome.

    REV. STEPHEN RICHARDSON, Jordan Temple Baptist: The fact of the matter is, it’s not our church. It’s God’s church.

    JOHN DONVAN: Which means it’s for Jason and his family too. And now Sunday’s are Jason’s favorite day of the week, when, walking into Jordan Temple’s foyer, he’s greeted like this, where his face is all you need to see to know how he loves, and where, inside, he gets to act like this, up and swaying, when everyone else is praying in their seats, the very behavior that made him unwelcomed before.

    But, here, it just doesn’t matter, proving that acceptance doesn’t take a miracle, not, perhaps, like getting his face on the cover of GQ, but who knows?

    For the NewsHour, I’m John Donvan in Maywood, Illinois.

    The post Children of color with autism face disparities of care and isolation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump looks on as his choice for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S. December 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTX2UD61

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    AUDIE CORNISH: Now let’s turn back to the contentious confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education.

    The vote was razor-thin. And, tonight, we look at how it went down, what DeVos can do as education secretary, and the limits of her power.

    It’s the focus of our weekly education segment, Making the Grade.

    Lisa Desjardins gets us started.

    MIKE PENCE, Vice President of the United States: On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative. hand the nomination is confirmed.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It marked the first time a vice president presiding over the Senate has broken a tie to confirm a Cabinet secretary, a dramatic ending to the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education.

    And it came after 24 straight hours of debate, when Democrats held a rare overnight speech-a-thon to oppose DeVos. But the primary doubt came from two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Both said DeVos’ confirmation hearing led them to vote no.

    Democrats like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown tried to persuade other Republicans.

    SEN. SHERROD BROWN, D-Ohio: As many have said on this floor, based on her confirmation hearing, it appears she has a complete lack of knowledge as to what the Department of Education actually does.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But a number of Republicans, like Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, defended DeVos.

    SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R-Tenn.: She has led the most effective public school reform movement over the last 30 years. And I urge you to give the new Republican president the opportunity to choose his own education secretary.

    LISA DESJARDINS: DeVos is known as a school choice activist, who supports for-profit charter schools, and wants public funds to be used as vouchers for private schools.

    She’s also a billionaire, who, along with her family, has donated heavily to Republicans. In the end, she survived the toughest fight for any Trump nominee yet, and Vice President Pence swore her in late today.

    AUDIE CORNISH: And Lisa joins me now.

    And, Lisa, outs of all of these nominees, this one ended up giving the Trump administration the most trouble. What happened?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I think that there was an overwhelming response from America.

    Part of that, we know, was individual voters following Betsy DeVos’ hearings who called their senators. But let’s not kid ourselves. There was also a huge organizational push, largely by teachers unions.

    I talked to the National Education Association. They said they directed 1.1 million emails toward senators. And then also the American Federation of Teachers, 2,000 actions from them.

    These were unions making a huge push. They came close, Audie, but, in the end, this is also a tale of unions. They still have influence. They can still mobilize. But they don’t have decisive influence anymore. They lost.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Right, close, but no cigar.


    AUDIE CORNISH: The thing is, that is the outside opposition.

    What about Democrats on the inside? What were they able to do? Because I know they were able to try to peel off a Republican in the last minute.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think Democrats thought this outside push was going to do it and win over another Republican.

    But you talk to the Republicans who voted no, like Susan Collins today, and she said what did it for her what Betsy DeVos herself, that the hearing just changed Susan Collins’ mind. And, in addition, the voices she was listening to were those of teachers in her state.

    She said the superintendent of the Bangor School District, also superintendent from an island school district, those voices said to her, we don’t like Betsy DeVos, we don’t trust her to run our education system. And that’s who Susan Collins listened to.

    AUDIE CORNISH: What does this mean going forward for her relationship, say, with Capitol Hill, right? Is this…



    They do have an oversight role, of course, over everything in the agencies. But, for the most part, I think, Audie, this is over. Republicans, including Susan Collins, say they want to move on. They’re hoping the education secretary, now that she’s confirmed, does well.

    But I think watch Democrats, because this is just another very difficult political decision for them. Do they keep opposing everything the way their base is pressuring them, or, as Dick Durbin said to me, do they try and take a deep breath and see what’s actually winnable, what could actually change something.

    Our producer Pam Kirkland talked to Dianne Feinstein. She just kind of shook her head and said, “It is what it is.”

    AUDIE CORNISH: Lisa, thanks so much.

    LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.

    AUDIE CORNISH: With the confirmation battle behind her, what can Betsy DeVos do now? What exactly is in her power to change at the Education Department.

    Emma Brown of The Washington Post has written about this.


    And, Emma, I want to start by asking you about what the education secretary can actually do on her own, right? We have seen an administration that’s willing to use executive power in trying to deal with regulations. What does that mean for an education secretary?

    EMMA BROWN, The Washington Post: There are certain things that the education secretary absolutely can do on her own now.

    One of the really important areas is civil rights. And civil rights advocates are really worried actually about what Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration will do in this realm.

    They could really easily with the stroke of a pen rescind or revise the Obama administration’s controversial guidance on transgender students’ accommodations in public schools. Similarly, they can reverse the guidance that has really pushed schools and colleges to handle complaints of sexual violence differently.

    So, there is a whole realm of civil rights enforcement and investigation that is really under Betsy DeVos’ management now.

    AUDIE CORNISH: With both the Obama administration and the Bush administration, there were times when their Education Departments and secretaries were accused of overreach. Right?

    They faced massive backlash over federal initiatives. What has that shown us about the limits of power for the education secretary?

    EMMA BROWN: Yes, the Obama administration took the power of the Education Department to its limits.

    And what we saw was a backlash from Congress. Congress didn’t appreciate that, and, in the end, you know, passed with overwhelming majorities a new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, that really reined in the education secretary’s authority and shifted quite a bit of authority from the federal government in general back to states and local districts.

    And so there is a real sensitivity right now in Washington to the federal role in education, and Republicans really want to see that federal role shrunken.

    AUDIE CORNISH: That being said, we know that candidate Donald Trump advocated for block grants to states to support school choice programs. So, now that he will have an education secretary who also believes in vouchers and school choice, what is the appetite on Capitol Hill for something like that, right? They hold the purse strings. They would have to approve the legislation to make it happen.

    EMMA BROWN: Absolutely.

    And this is where she, Betsy DeVos, is going to need cooperation from Congress, you know, either in the budget language or in legislation. So, Trump’s proposal was a $20 billion proposal, which is really huge. We spend $15 billion right now on Title I funds, which is all the money that goes from the federal government to support schools that serve lots of kids who are low-income.

    So, $20 billion is huge. I think that a lot of folks in the education community saw that as a really heavy lift, even before all this pushback against DeVos. But there are other ways she can promote school choice. They can do it through tax code overhaul.

    They can look for examples like the D.C. voucher program. We have the only federally funded voucher program here in D.C. — to expand that. And so there will be, I think, at least the beginnings of efforts to expand school choice, maybe on a smaller scale first, before going to those bigger pushes.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Given the fight over her nomination, what do you see as the political kind of hurdles going forward?

    EMMA BROWN: Well, I think that the folks who have opposed her, including the teachers unions, but also civil rights advocates and the folks who just weren’t connected to either of those groups, but just came out against her because they said they believed in public schools, I think the goal of the opponents of Betsy DeVos is going to have to continue mobilizing those forces to watch everything she does and to continue applying pressure on Congress to serve as a watchdog.

    So, I think, you know, she’s going to have to prove that she is an advocate for sort of this whole constituency that came out against her in the last few weeks.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Emma Brown of The Washington Post, thank you.

    EMMA BROWN: Thanks.

    The post How Betsy DeVos could reshape national education policy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Amnesty International has just issued a report documenting what it says is clear evidence that the Assad regime in Syria has been illegally imprisoning, torturing and murdering political opponents.

    William Brangham has more.

    And a warning: Some of the details here are disturbing.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amnesty’s report says that somewhere between 5,000 and 13,000 people were tortured and executed at one military prison outside Damascus between 2011 and 2015.

    Amnesty alleges that officials at the highest level of the Syrian government approved the killings, as did the grand mufti of Syria, the highest ranking religious figure in the country.

    I’m joined now by Sunjeev Bery. He’s Amnesty’s director of advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa.

    SUNJEEV BERY, Amnesty International: Thank you for having me.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Very, very troubling reading in this report and the stories of the people who were tortured and executed at this prison.

    Can you tell me, who were these people?

    SUNJEEV BERY: There were thousands of civilians, as well as some ex-military officers, who are held at Saydnaya prison in Saydnaya, Syria.

    We estimate that between 10,000 and 20,000 people are held there now. And for years, on a weekly basis, as many as 50 people have been hanged in mass executions by the Syrian government at this prison.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And are these people who are picked up — what are the crimes that they’re accused of?

    SUNJEEV BERY: Many of them are perceived to be opposition to the government, although when you’re doing this kind of mass arrest, mass torture and miss execution, who knows what the individual people’s backgrounds are?

    And, of course, peaceful, nonviolent opposition to a government is certainly not a crime. But with that background, many of them are subjected to forced confessions through extraordinarily brutal torture, and once that confession is put via ink to paper, then the execution process begins.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I understand a lot of the documentation for this report came from people who witnessed what’s going on in there.

    I understand that there is some kind of a trial process, so-called trial. Can you explain a little bit about what goes on?


    And just to put it in perspective, the so-called trial is a total of one to three minutes.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One to three minutes’ long?

    SUNJEEV BERY: One to three minutes per person, who is then later executed.

    So you have thousands of people in these prisons subjected to extraordinary brutal torture in complete silence, living under rules of complete silence, routine deaths.

    A certain percentage of the population in this prison are then taken to trials via a military field court, a so-called court, in a suburb of Damascus, where, during a one-to-three-minute trial, with, of course, no lawyer present, no due process at all, in 60 to 180 seconds, they are sentenced to death.

    That death sentence is then rubber-stamped by higher authorities up to the highest levels of government, and then later they are tortured and hung to death.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The thing that was so striking to me, among many, in this report was the bureaucracy, the documentation of it, the fingerprinting, the getting witnesses to sign that they had never been mistreated, getting doctors to certify that all these deaths occurred because of natural causes.

    Why do you think that the regime goes to these lengths to basically catalogue their own war crimes?

    SUNJEEV BERY: It is difficult to know why the regime is so bureaucratically efficient in its documentation of its crimes against humanity.

    One possibility may be that the senior levels of the government, perhaps even including President Bashar al-Assad, want to know that the crimes against humanity that they are likely to be ordering are, in fact, being carried out by the military and the intelligence bureaucracy.

    And so with each of these executions, the executions are signed, either by the grand mufti, the highest appointed supposedly Muslim authority in Syria, although, if you’re signing off on all these mass executions, it’s highly questionable what your personal morality is, or the army chief of staff, or one other senior level defense official, the minister of defense.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What do you hope the international community does with this evidence?

    SUNJEEV BERY: Well, the first thing to do is stare the evidence in the face and acknowledge what’s happening.

    It’s time for Russia and China to drop their veto at the U.N. Security Council and allow the United Nations to take action on this. It’s time for the U.S. government under President Trump to stop pretending that anything other than gross crimes against humanity are happening.

    And it’s also time to acknowledge what Syrian refugees are fleeing. You have perhaps 5,000 to 13,000 people killed at this prison, another 17,000 people killed at other prisons across Syria, and all of that against a backdrop of some 400,000 people who have died since the Syrian war began.

    People are fleeing for their lives. And it is shameful that our own U.S. government here has said no to Syrian refugees at a time of such extraordinary suffering.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This report comes out amidst — it’s just the latest piece of evidence on a mountain of evidence that already exists about Assad’s regime.

    But, as you well know, Assad still sits happily on his perch in Syria. Do you think that this is going to move the needle in any way?

    SUNJEEV BERY: The needle definitely has to move.

    And one key factor is going to be putting pressure on the U.N. Security Council to take action. That means putting pressure on the Russian government, putting pressure on the Chinese government, and ensuring that the U.S. government, under the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, actually stands up on this issue and pushes on it, as opposed to referring to President Bashar al-Assad as some kind of ally in the so-called war against terrorism.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Sunjeev Bery of Amnesty International, thank you very much.

    SUNJEEV BERY: Thank you.

    The post Amnesty documents ‘human slaughterhouse’ in Assad’s Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington February 7, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX301Q4

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: One charge the president and his team have raised repeatedly in recent days is his claim that the news media either ignore or undercovers terrorist incidents.

    On Monday, the president himself said — quote — “The dishonest press doesn’t want to report on terrorist attacks.” That was followed by the White House issuing a list of attacks that it contends didn’t get enough press attention.

    Philip Bump, who reports for The Washington Post, has been looking into the accuracy of the president’s claims. And he joins me now from New York.

    So, Philip, just to be clear, what exactly did the president himself say? And distinguish that from what his press secretary said.

    PHILIP BUMP, The Washington Post: And it’s an absolutely critical distinction.

    So, the president, speaking to the United States Central Command, said that the media wasn’t reporting, that, for whatever reason, implying that there was some bias involved, the media wasn’t reporting about terror attacks.

    The White House’s press secretary then came back and modified that, tried to soften it and say, well, what he meant to say is, these things have been underreported. That was the point at which they issued this list of 78 attacks that occurred between 2014 and 2016.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you went over this list of 78 different attacks that they put down and handed out. And what did you find?

    PHILIP BUMP: I didn’t find any that hadn’t actually been reported. And that’s the bar that the president set. That’s important to remember. He said they had not been reported.

    Each of these 78, I had found had been reported. ThinkProgress, a liberal site, went back. They found 17,000 news articles in the first week after each of these attacks covering all these attacks, 17,000 articles covering these 78 attacks.

    So it’s certainly the case that these things had been reported. Underreported, of course, is very subjective, and that’s really where the administration right now is putting its emphasis on making that point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, just to back up a little bit, there were a number of terrorist attacks in here that were clearly covered. In fact, some would argue they were overcovered, from Orlando to San Bernardino to the Paris attacks, Brussels, and so on.

    PHILIP BUMP: That’s exactly right.

    And I think that that’s why it’s very safe to assume that the motivation for releasing this list wasn’t necessarily to make this point about being underreported. Yes, to include on this list something like the San Bernardino attack or the Orlando attack, which got saturation coverage for days on end, justifiably, to include those on a list of things being underreported seems to suggest the point of the list was in fact the list itself, in that there were all these terror attacks that the administration at this moment, with this court battle, going wants to make people aware that terrorism still exists as a big problem.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Philip Bump, you also did find some that didn’t get that much coverage. Most of them occurred overseas, is that right, outside the United States?

    PHILIP BUMP: That’s exactly right.

    Yes, so the scale of the attacks here range from the attack in Paris, which was a multipronged attack, at a soccer stadium and a music hall and cafes, to stabbing attacks on people — military officials in Egypt, for example.

    There was a huge range of what is included in this. A lot of the attacks, no one was killed, not necessarily that that should be the standard by which we say a terrorist attack is good or bad. But the fact that all of these things were packaged together as one whole, suggesting this is, therefore, a threat to the United States, which was the clear implication, I think is worth noting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the bottom line is that what the president stated is not accurate, that the press has ignored most terrorist attacks.

    But, to go beyond that, you point out in the article this concept of working the refs. The White House approach to talking to the press about what it’s going to do or not going to do in covering something that’s coming up, explore that with us for a second.

    PHILIP BUMP: Sure.

    So there’s this idea of working with the refs, essentially looking as the media as being referees. And it’s this concept that carries over from sports, obviously.

    But the idea is to try and shape the behavior of the media by criticizing the media in a very deliberate way. And so what Donald Trump said, I don’t think that this was planned. I think he was irritated in the moment at the media, made these comments. I can’t obviously say that with certainty.

    But I think what Sean Spicer, the press secretary did, was very strategic. And he said, this is an opportunity for us to try and get this list of 78 attacks out in from of the media, and at the same time get the media to focus from here on out about the extent to which they cover terror attacks.

    Obviously, in this moment, in this political moment, it is beneficial to the administration to have this perception that there are a lot of terror attacks that are going underreported that are happening all the time. This is a way, I think, that Spicer realized of getting the media to be more attentive to, should we or should we not cover this thing that we might not otherwise have covered?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is also the question that’s been raised about how much terrorist — how coverage of terrorist attacks or attempted attacks raises what we know is the fear level in this country, this idea that the more terrorism, terrorist attacks are in the news, no matter how small or how large they may be, how many incidents, the more there is a sense of fear that begins to permeate the public.

    PHILIP BUMP: That’s exactly right.

    And it’s important to remember that the entire point of a terror attack is to terrorize. And the only way you can terrorize is if the news media, if people in general hype the idea that there is a lot of terrorism going on and that there is a reason to be afraid.

    So there is clearly a balance that any elected official has to hold to between whether or not you emphasize terror or whether or not you downplay terrorism. Today, during the daily press briefing, Sean Spicer tried to sort of play it both ways. He suggested that it was important that we talk about all these things, but that the result of that would be that people would feel safer under President Trump.

    I’m not sure he can have that cake and eat it too.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it certainly was important to go down and look at this list that the White House put out of 78 incidents. And your reporting was important.

    Philip Bump, we thank you.

    PHILIP BUMP: Thanks. Sure.

    The post Fact-check: Are terror attacks underreported by the media? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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